The 1977 PBA Second Conference, known as Open Conference, had for the first time, six teams will make it to the semifinal round, unlike in the two previous seasons where four teams advances in a two-round semifinals.
The six semifinalists were: Crispa (11-3), Toyota and Tanduay (9-5), U/tex (8-6), Presto and 7-Up (7-7). Eliminated were Royal and Mariwasa-Honda. The Redmanizers, who were looking for their sixth straight championship, had only loss to Toyota, Presto (116-118) and Tanduay (112-113) in the eliminations, all in the second round.
The semifinal round started on October 27, 1977 and after the first round, the league’s surprise team was U/tex, which finish with a perfect 5-0 card, defeating Crispa on opening day, 92-80 on October 27, Toyota, 133-128 in overtime on October 29, Seven-Up, 96-92 on November 4, Presto, 112-105 on November 5, and Tanduay, 124-118 in double overtime on November 6. Crispa, which started on a wrong foot, losing to U/tex, bounces back with a 120-97 win over Presto on October 29, lost to Seven-Up, 120-121 on October 31, defeated arch rival Toyota, 121-116 on November 4, and Tanduay, 105-98 in the following day, for a 3-2 record, tied with Toyota. The scores in the Tamaraws’ three victories; 113-105 over Tanduay on October 27, 136-121 over Seven-Up on November 5, the night Danny Florencio break the previous single-game high of 59 set by Jun Papa of Mariwasa, by scoring 64 points for the Uncolas while Robert Jaworski of Toyota had his personal-best of 39 points, and 131-120 win over Presto on the next day on November 6.
The November 6 result on Balita newspaper
After the two-round semifinals, the U/tex Wranglers advances to the finals for the first time in their franchise history, finishing on top of the standings at 8-2, with both losses, to Toyota, 110-120 on November 8, and Crispa, 84-86 on November 10. The Redmanizers and the Tamaraws, tied at second with a 7-3 won-loss slates, would go on to play in a knockout game. Crispa won the playoff match, 90-87, for the right to play U/tex for the Open Conference crown.
In their finals match-up, Crispa was 3-1 over U/tex in their four previous meetings, winning twice in the eliminations by low scores, 87-85 and 98-97. The best-of-five finals series saw the Redmanizers, which only had Cyrus Mann as their import going up against the Wranglers’ pair of Byron “Snake” Jones and Charles Neal, nearly went down 0-2 in the series, after losing Game one, 105-113, the Redmanizers had to come-from-behind to beat U/tex in the second game, 103-101, on Cyrus Mann’ tipped-in at the buzzer, on a follow-up after Atoy Co missed a long jumper in the last two seconds. (often referred as the longest two seconds in the PBA)
The next three games of the series were very close, with Crispa taking Game three, 79-76, and U/tex forcing a deciding fifth game with a 92-89 win in Game four. The last game of the championship took place on November 29, the Wranglers of coach Tommy Manotoc, battled back from 12 points down early in the third quarter and held the Redmanizers to 11 deadlocks and similar number of lead changes. The last 10 seconds of the game saw Cyrus Mann sank the second of his two free throws off a foul from Snake Jones, to give Crispa a 90-87 edge. On the next play, Roy Deles fished a foul from Philip Cezar on a jump shot attempt from the side, with only five seconds left. Deles made his first free throw and coach Manotoc called for time, Deles intentionally missed his second and Jones won the rebound and got off a shot which could give the Wranglers a chance to send the game into overtime, but Jones’ desperation shot had too much spin and bounced against the boards and into the hands of Mann, who rushed in for the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
Crispa coach Baby Dalupan, who won his sixth straight PBA title, considers the victory as the Redmanizers’ toughest championship. Atoy Co topscored for Crispa with 25 points, followed by Mann with 16. For U/tex, Byron Jones had 35 points and Lim Eng Beng with 19.